Monday, 25 June 2007

13.36 from RL to SL

The 13.36 train from a town in Kent to Victoria is the unlikely vehicle taking me from one world to another. I'm going from my mum's art exhibition to SLUK 07 organised by Rivers Run Red.

I'm still not used to blurring the line and here I am on a real train, on my way to meet people I usually only deal with in Second Life.

In my hands are some photos that arrived this morning. Glossy prints on photographic paper of people and places that I have no other physical record of.

In one picture I'm sitting on the ground next to a friend outside a modern house. There are palm trees in the distance and a cluster of reeds on the foreground. We're looking at each other, talking.

Many of my friends in Second life would recognise the place straight away.

Others are portraits of avatars that are important to me, or places with special meaning. One is a self portrait.

The pictures are a snapshot of my second life. They would mean nothing even to my closest real life friends and family.

They were an experiment, partly to see how the digital screenshots I've been taking for over a year look on photographic paper, but mainly I was interested in how it would feel to hold these things in my hands.

I was surprised at the strength of feeling they evoked. The weirdest thing was that even though I've had pictures like this on my computer for over a year, they've always been separated out from my real life by their digital form.

When the computer was off or I'm not sitting at it, the virtual world fades fast in the absence of physical reminders.

Now I had these pictures in my hand in my hand.It felt like these images had crossed a great distance, like images from the surface of Mars. It felt like a line had been crossed.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Real Life

6.42. I'm on a train on the way in. My eyelids feel like they've been open way too long in the last few days. Screen fatigue.

Yesterday we delivered most of our material: 18 five-minute films plus 18 two- minute films and an 8 minute film for school kids about global warming.

The scripts long ago lost their meaning, pulled around by committee. People who work in broadcast often assume that making films outside that world is easier. Give me someone who knows the medium and knows what they want any day instead of these idiots.

The woman I've been working for throughout this is based a long way away. That would normally be a good thing. Every time we need an edit approved, we just upload it and send a link by email, right?

The phone rings straight away....

"Rob?", she whispers with a trace of panic, like something is my fault.

"I'm having problems downloading this thing - it's not working?"

"Well, what's it doing?"

"This thing popped up.... it says transferring data or something... 63 megabytes...."

"That's what it's supposed to do. It is downloading it."

"How will I watch it?"

She is head of a fucking media organisation in the 21st century.

"Click on it, when it's finished." This is so lame.

"Oh no, the other phone's going! Bye!"

Monday, 18 June 2007

Technosexual Geeks Run Wild

"the digital age has created a technosexual generation hooked on no-strings casual sex."

I read this in a lamestream Sunday magazine article at the weekend.

Is there a generation that hasn't been hooked on casual sex, "technosexual" or not? It was a strapline dressed up as social analysis for Observer readers. To be fair to the writer, who probably had nothing to do with the headline, her article never really fulfils the promise of this lurid suggestion. I'm sure people do use the internet to arrange causal liasons (duh! and erm... learn how to make bombs and stuff). That's not really news.

What is interesting to me is that, thanks to the technology, there might be a development in the opposite direction... The development of the postal service allowed, for the first time, people to have long distance relationships. Intense relationships of passion built on words and dreams. There is a romance in the language of love letters that you don't find in sms. With email and the death of distance, and more especially the development of avatars and virtual worlds that facilitate an oddly real physical closeness, could we see a a return of the victorian-style long and (relatively) chaste courtship?

" much can you truly learn about a person from a blog? A lot of the information on Facebook is superficial and guarded. The pictures tend to be either improbably flattering or deliberately obscured - along with the rest of what's posted, they represent a highly manipulated reality."

The fact that our digital lives are largely anonymous and represent a "manipulated reality" is one thing, but then drinking six pints of lager before stumbling home with someone from the pub is manipulating reality too. I've asked around in Second Life, and I've of course, I've found people who've had real-life casual sex with people they've met as avatars. But there are even more who feel they are exploring a different kind of relationship through this medium. And it's often not as casual as you might expect.

I know of people who've left their real lives to pursue a dream born in a digital world... happy endings? I don't know yet.

There is anonymity online, but it provides a security that perhaps allows people to open up quicker and be more direct with strangers than is often the case in real life situations.

Time is the new Space

This blog is about where real and virtual lives meet and how they affect each other. Its been mostly focused on virtual life, so far.

In recent days (weeks?) work has exploded into the anticipated badly managed shitstorm. With me in the role of chief cleaner. I haven't had much time to snatch from work to carry on with real life let alone to explore the virtual... it feels like going from having two lives to limping along with less than half of each.

The whole process is damaging, long hours sitting down at a desk, drinking too much coffee.

Before the web 2.0 thing really took off, Frances Cairncross wrote a book called The Death of Distance. A good friend of mine says "time is the space between us". They are both right.

I believe time will be a much harder nut for the scientists to crack than distance was, but I'll be first to sign up for "MyTime" when it launches.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Second Life Dreams

I have never had an especially hard head... I can get easily absorbed in alternate realities. Things that some people barely notice can be very real for me. Lucid dreams, visualizations... and that kind of thing. I need a tiny fraction of the dose of some of my friends when it comes to psychedelic drugs, I've had psychedelic expriences on nothing at all. That's probably why I get a lot out of SL and some of my RL friends don't. My head seems to meet the technology at least half way, and pulls powerful things (to me, at least) out of it.

I've been living with my avatar now for a year and a half and one of the clearest effects I've noticed has been in my dreams. Its often said it's a dream-like world. Well it is and it isn't, but I clearly remember my first SL influenced dream. It didn't look like SL but it had the same feeling of wonder and community.

Since then, dreams involving SL friends have become at least as regular as those with RL friends. A result of spending time where and forming emotional bonds I suppose, but these drerams aren't populated by avatars.

I just know who the people are with that unquestionable knowledge you get in dreams. actual appearance is fluid, like any detail if you try to fix on it in a dream, but each one is a solid presence and I know for sure who they are in my dream (unlike SL). The dreams don't take place in the same places as my RL dreams, which are often set in familiar but distorted RL environments.

The SL dreams happen in a world that's not quite like the real one real and yet it's not like SL either.

I find it interesting that I don't ever dream that I'm sitting at a computer, logged into SL. I'm always totally in-world, it shows how immersive an environment it is, maybe, that the interface totally disappears when I dream of it. Experiences in SL get filed by the brain as part of my life just as normal RL incidents do. Another interesting point... I've had dreams with different friends from SL in them but never a mixed reality dream... so there is a clear separation somewhere in there, even though parts of my life blur the line.

I think its like anything that stretches your experience I, it informs your dreams, gives you new ways of thinking and feeling which are manifested in dreams. In that respect, it's like an hallucinogenic drug. It opens you up to other ways of being and thinking and once that's done, you can't go back.